Chemical recycling to reach maturity in 5-10 years - execs

Source: ICIS News

2019/03/08

LONDON (ICIS)--Chemicals recycling technology is continuing to mature and could become mainstream within the next five to 10 years, according to executives from BASF and INEOS Styrolution on Friday.

The process of breaking plastic waste down to its constituent molecular parts to reconstitute it as a petrochemicals feedstock is the “missing link” to close the loop on a functioning circular economy, according to Klaus Wittstock, head of industry advocacy and environmental policy at Germany’s chemicals major BASF.

Chemicals recycling solutions are at various stages of development, with some at the laboratory or pilot plant phase and others further along the cycle.

However, five to 10 years remain before the technology is fully mature, said Wittstock, speaking at the IdentiPlast conference in London.

Norbert Niessner, director of global research and development (R&D) at styrenics specialist INEOS Styrolution, also set out a five-to-10-year timeline.

Others, however, were less optimistic. Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical developments director at UK waste treatment firm Suez, was less optimistic on the overall timeline and its implications for meeting mooted EU recycling and circularity goals, many of which envisage deadlines in 2030 and through the 2030s.

“[I see] five to 10 years before we're ready to cookie-cutter the model, but then to build plants at scale through that process is going to take five to 10 years on top of that,” said Hayward-Higham.

“By my calculations, that suggests that we'll miss 2020, 2025, and might catch the back end of 2030 for some of this [technology], so the question is how we do that transition [to a circular economy in the current timeframe],” he added.

The road is longer for carbon dioxide (CO2) to polymers technology, which continues to develop but is likely 20-30 years away from becoming a mainstream technology, according to Ann Dierckx, director of sustainability at the European chemicals trade group Cefic.

IdentiPlast runs in London on 7-8 March.

Picture source: Victor Watts/REX/Shutterstock